GOP senators praise House vote to save A-10

Republican senators on Thursday praised the House Armed Services Committee for voting to preserve the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft despite the Air Force’s push to retire the fleet.

Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteExplaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid Trump voter fraud panel member fights back against critics Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada MORE (R-N.H.) John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's dangerous Guantánamo fixation will fuel fire for terrorists Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Ad encourages GOP senator to vote 'no' on tax bill MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock Graham on Moore: 'We are about to give away a seat' key to Trump's agenda Tax plans show Congress putting donors over voters MORE (R-S.C.) and Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ga.) called the panel’s “overwhelming” bipartisan vote to delay the fleet’s retirement a “significant interim victory for our ground troops.”

“We applaud the committee members for honoring our commitment to provide our troops the best possible close air support so they can accomplish their missions and return home safely,” they said in a statement.

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Defense Department officials have argued for mothballing the A-10, fondly referred to as the “Warthog” by troops, in order to save $3.5 billion over the next five years. They say the aircraft’s close air support mission could be fulfilled by other platforms like the F-16 fighter.

Many lawmakers, though, question whether other aircraft can fill the A-10’s role and often note its popularity with ground troops.

In its marathon markup of the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday the Armed Services panel voted 41-20 to incorporate a measure that would delay the A-10 fleet’s retirement for at least a year and require a Pentagon study on whether other planes could provide troops with adequate close air support.

The four senators have been staunch defenders of the A-10, rejecting a compromise proposal from committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) earlier this week that would have put the aircraft into "Type-100" storage. McKeon’s plan would have allowed the 283-plane fleet to be reactivated easily if and when the government’s fiscal outlook improved.

“We look forward to addressing this issue in the Senate Armed Services Committee and working with members of both parties and both chambers to ensure the A-10 can continue to protect our ground forces,” the GOP senators said Thursday.